A Culture of Family at Bacardi

Bacardi has a long history of making its employees feel like part of the family. Non-family employees who rose to prominence, such as Juan Grau, an engineer who became vice president of Bacardi’s operations in Brazil, and marketing expert Juan Prado, who was entrusted with defending the BACARDÍ rum brand internationally after Castro nationalized Bacardi’s Cuban holdings, felt a deep kinship with the Bacardi culture of family. Richard Gardner, who worked for more than 40 years at Bacardi, noted that loyalty to the company ran deep, as Bacardi made its employees “feel a part of the family.”

In the 1930s, many Cuban workers became unionized. A Bacardi strike in 1933 was widely acknowledged to be a reflection of the collective mood in Cuba and not dissatisfaction with Bacardi’s treatment of its workers. At the time, Bacardi far surpassed Cuba’s legal requirements for worker protection. A progressive employer, Bacardi provided retirement benefits, sick pay, and housing loans. Employees worked an 8-hour day, and many benefited from profit sharing. The labor conflict was amicably resolved within nine days, unlike many strikes that occurred around that time.

This commitment to employee well-being continued in the 1960s after Bacardi’s holdings in Cuba were confiscated without compensation. When many Bacardi employees wished to leave Cuba, Pepín Bosch asked Bacardi lawyer Guillermo Mármol to postpone his own departure in order to help Bacardi employees to exit the country. Once the refugees arrived in Miami, Bosch’s son Jorge would meet them at the airport and transport them to an apartment in an area that became known as Little Havana. The apartment was stocked with groceries, and the employees were often put on a temporary payroll while Bacardi’s upper management helped them find jobs at one of Bacardi’s operating facilities in Miami, Mexico, Puerto Rico, or Brazil.

Today, Bacardi employs 6,000 people in 29 facilities worldwide. Guillermo Rodriguez, who rose from sales representative to vice president over the course of nearly 20 years, commented on the family culture of the firm. “You don’t feel like a number or an employee — you feel like a family member and owner.”